« PreviousContinue »
and according to a common use of language, said of him that he suffered for us,—died for us,laid down his life for us.
But that his sufferings were not the effects of God's displeasure against him as our substitute, is, to my mind, very clear from the following passages of Scripture :
6“ For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John iii. 16.
6« But God commendeth his love to us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Rom. v. 8.
““ He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?” Rom. viii. 32.
«« That he by the GRACE of God should taste death for every man.” Heb. ii. 9.
6" Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” 1 John, iv. 10.
I hardly know of any language which could more clearly convey the idea, that both the mission and the sufferings of the son of God were the fruits of God's love to sinful men. Even in regard to the propitiation,' or reconciling sacrifice, John says,—“Herein is love !" the love of God, not his wrath.' It seems to me that the gospel does not exhibit God to us, as such an austere Sovereign, that he cannot forgive even a penitent, without inflicting the deserved evils on an innocent victim ; but, as a being who has indeed a father's heart, and is disposed, by tender compassion for his guilty
offspring, to do all that wisdom and love shall dictate to reconcile and save them. In the exercise of the purest love, he sent his Son, “not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Though God well knew that the mission of his Son would cost him his life ;-and though the Son was one in whom he was ever well pleased ; yet such was his love to us, that he did not withhold this object of his most tender affection, but delivered him up for us all, when this became necessary to the accomplishment of his benevolent purpose respecting our salvation.
• This delightful view of the subject appears to me clearly authorised by the Gospel; and with great propriety the intelligence of such love may be called good tidings. This view of the subject seems also to accord with God's long-suffering conduct towards Adam and his posterity, subsequent to the fall; and with the benignity of the Divine character as revealed to Abraham, to Moses, and to the people of Israel,—both by words and symbolical institutions. I may add, that this view of the subject excludes the awful, the painful, and, to me, unnatural idea of God's displaying avenging justice on an innocent and holy victim, as necessary to the exercise of forgiving love toward his penitent children. It is presumed that this supposed example of the mode of Divine forgiveness, has never been, and never can be, imitated by any enlightened and benevolent being in the universe. Yet every Christian is required to forgive, as God forgives !' pp. 79, 82. Again in treating of the question, 'In what sense did the Messiah bear the sins of many? he observes, “It is said of Christ, “ He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”—“ Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” It could be only in a metaphorical sense, that he bore our griefs, our sicknesses, or our sins. Matthew, after recording the many miracles which Jesus performed on a certain occasion, tells us, that these things were done, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet,—Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” If, then, Christ might bear our sicknesses by exercising a benevolent sympathy and his power of healing; why not bear our sins by benevolent labors and sufferings to redeem us from all iniquity? I see no more evidence that, in bearing our sins he bore our punishment, than that in bearing our sicknesses, he suffered all the pains and distresses, of which he relieved others.' p. 93.
THE CONDITIONS OF OUR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD.
How strange that men should puzzle and distress themselves indefatigably about what natural conscience infers so directly and the Scriptures testify so plainly! If we had but the single declaration of Peter, that, “In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him,' should we need any more? We thank God, this is plain and. explicit enough for us; and one undisputed decision of inspired wisdom is as good as a thousand. We have done with anxiety. We can now live and die with quiet minds, full of trust and hope. We know the primary, fundamental, only indispensable terms of our salvation. Reverence for God and a disposition to act righteously constitute the great point on which all turns. Whatever may be metaphysically argued against their sufficiency, the undisputed assertion of revelation must stand. Whatever may be quoted in opposition to it from other passages of scripture, it would be sufficient to answer, we do not understand those passages; as there are probably many in the Bible which none understand. What then ? Must a proposition as plain as the light of the skies be rejected because our limited knowledge may not be able to reconcile it with what is not plain? If we confessed to our opponents that we did not comprehend a single other passage in the whole Bible except this, they would have gained nothing. We have still the advantage of this explicit declaration.
The reader is aware, how variously this simplicity in the terms of acceptance with God has been controverted ; and what multifarious and complicated conditions have been maintained in its place. Some assert the necessity of belonging to a particular church. Some, the necessity of performing certain outward ceremonies ; or of inflicting on ourselves certain pains and privations. Others contend for the paramount value
of a creed, to be estimated in proportion to its length and complexedness—the more unintelligible, the more virtue in believing it. Others again, are vehement in declaring indispensable, certain inward experiences, sensible impulses, and frames of mind. And moreover there are some who maintain, that we need do nothing, that there are no conditions, that God will save us whether we wish it or not.
Now to all these, except the last, we have only to say that their conditions are defective. They do not seem to involve the one great leading test on which the scriptures lay stress. They may be all very well in their place. They are good additions and aids to the one thing needful; but they are not that one thing. They are not essential. They are not so indispensable that we ought not to feel safe a moment without them; as is the case with fearing God and working righteous
I know there is a subterfuge by which, simple and direct as the apostle's language is, it is evaded by the advocates of the prevalent systems. We are told, that it is true, God would accept all who fear him and work righteousness; but that none can expect to be saved on these terms, for none fulfil them; there are none who work perfect righteousness; there is no man that sinneth not. But is not this trifling with the language of scripture? Is not the meaning of the apostle very plain? He certainly did not intend to mock us with riddles. He means by righteousness, not sinless perfection, but the conscientious desire and habitual en